The Good Stuff: Social Media, Robots, Non-Zombies and Mars
It’s time for my weekly digest of cool content…
1. Social science and context collapse.
In social media, you hear a lot about Dunbar’s Number — a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. But were you aware that Dunbar came up with his number by studying primates, not humans?
Dunbar’s number is a conjecture about a world without writing, let alone modern technology.
I learned about the origins of Dunbar’s number (and a bunch of other interesting things) in the post, A Brief Primer on Human Social Networks, or How to Keep $16 Billion in Your Pocket.
There’s further good information about social science and how we manage our networks in the research study, Context Collapse: A Literature Review. Context collapse — basically the problem which occurs when people who know us in different ways are all together in the same place — was a problem for humans long before social networks were invented. For example, “Weddings, funerals, and public community gathering spaces have long been sites of merging networks and divergent actor expectations.”
Both articles have great insights for anyone who is interested in how and why we build our social networks.
2. The robot apocalypse will soon be upon us.
Are the robots about to rise? A recent post from The Guardian certainly suggests so.
The article is an in-depth look at Ray Kurzweil (who popularized the idea of the singularity) and his move to Google where he hopes to marry artificial intelligence with Google’s treasure trove of data to create, in essence, a new (and better?) level of consciousness.
It’s since been revealed that Google has gone on an unprecedented shopping spree and is in the throes of assembling what looks like the greatest artificial intelligence laboratory on Earth; a laboratory designed to feast upon a resource of a kind that the world has never seen before: truly massive data. Our data. From the minutiae of our lives.
Scary stuff, huh?
While this post is largely a look into Kurzweil’s unique lifestyle and brilliant brain, it does give some insight into where artificial intelligence may be headed in the future and how we — with every Google search we do — are already creating that future.
3. The Returned/Les revenants
If you watched the Oscars this year, you were likely bombarded with promos for Resurrection, the new TV show on ABC based on the book, The Returned by Jason Mott (which I reviewed on Goodreads.)
While the ABC show looks like a faithful interpretation of the book (in which people come back from the dead — not as zombies, just as people out of place and time) I highly recommend you check out the series The Returned (Les revenants, in French) from the Sundance Channel first.
The French series has no connection to Mott’s book (other than the “back from the dead, but not zomies” premise) but is chock full of amazing stories. Don’t let the show’s subtitles deter you. It’s great, unsettling, original stuff that is “uncannily beautiful” (the ending is a little wonky, though.) Plus, you can binge watch the entire first season with no commercials on iTunes right now!
4. Generation like.
If you have an interest in social media, it is worth your while to take an hour out of your day to watch the PBS Frontline special on Generation Like (the first chapter is embedded below. Visit Frontline’s site to see the special in its entirety.)
“Generation Like” aren’t Millennials — they are a younger generation who were raised in a state of hyper-connectivity and brand awareness. And they are going to pose some uniques challenges for the marketers of tomorrow.
If your job involves charting the course for a company’s future, this show contains critical information you need to know.
5. Men on Mars.
I’ve kind of been on a Mars kick lately, (for no particular reason) which led me to read two interesting (and widely different) books about the red planet.
The first was Red Rising, by Pierce Brown. The book is YA fiction (which is more and more resembling plain old “adult fiction”) and takes place in a future where people live on Mars. (It’s kind of a Hunger Games on Mars sort of thing…but with less murdering.)
Like most YA, Red Rising is a fast, fun read with a mature, insightful premise. Heads up: Rising is part of planned trilogy. So, if you like it, you’ll have to wait awhile before you can read the next installment.
The second book, The Martian by Andy Weir, takes place kind of “now-ish,” and is about an astronaut on a mission to Mars who is accidentally left behind on the planet by his crew (with nothing but Disco music and 70s TV shows to keep him company.) The guy is hilarious (and super smart) and you quickly root for him to survive the whole ordeal.
This book is TAILOR MADE for Hollywood to make a movie of it (it has been optioned by Fox.) So do yourself a favor and read it now before they cast Justin Bieber in it in his movie debut and ruin it.